Friday, June 29, 2007

15 things I love about Zoe

What can I say about the girl whose birth made me an Anti? Whose adventures inspired me to write my first and still unpublished children's book? How can I begin to describe my eldest niece? Well, for one thing, I can say she's really not a girl any more. All of fifteen years old, she is now more woman than child. But then, she's always been a bit of an old soul. I remember dreaming of her once before she was born. We were walking down a beach, hand in hand, and though she was a toddler, she was offering me sage advice, explaining the meaning of life (which I promptly forgot upon waking up, of course). Indeed, this has been Zoe's role her entire life. She is like a living Magic 8 Ball her mother and I turn to for guidance and wisdom. Only once has she refused to answer, explaining with exasperation, "You know, Mom, I'm just a kid." I suppose that's her version of, "Reply Hazy, Ask Again Later."

I cherish the moments I've gotten to spend watching the round faced toddler we called Squeaker grow into the tough as nails catcher, keystone of her softball team, they call O.G. For a while, really, I didn't know what to think of the whole softball thing. In fact, I openly rejected it, calling it Kryptonite, as it weakens me to think about it. I feared that I wouldn't know how to relate to Zoe's inner jock, or that she would think less of me for my lack of interest in the game. Instead, I found that as in all things, Zoe accepts me the way I am. As usual, she was the bigger person.

Though I find it easy to admire Zoe, I have really struggled with this entry. It's difficult to do her justice with mere words. Ever since the birth of her sister, and my second generation of nieces in Washington, she's made a point of trying to get me to admit she's my favorite niece. While I refuse to commit, I will say I have certainly loved her the longest.

So here I give you 15 reasons I love Zoe:
  1. She's incredibly smart and hardworking. So much so that last year she earned a full scholarship to a very competitive private high school. The admissions staff even went as far as calling her their "ideal candidate." I'm not surprised they were so taken by her. In fact, she's amazing in every way. I am humbled she still tolerates my presence let alone that she still seeks out my company.
  2. Smart as she is, she sometimes does deliciously inexperienced things - like microwaving metal - that remind me she is in some ways still a girl.
  3. Like her mother, she's a horrible speller. Thus, her cat's name is Tabbee. She's a great mom to Tabbee (whose diabetes have led her to death's door at least once, and then it was Christmas Eve). Not only has she faced every crisis with grace and resilience, she's never even considered kicking her beloved companion out of bed for episodes of incontinence. Sometimes I believe that the only reason Tabbee is still alive is because Zoe's willed it so. If only that were enough to truly grant a cat immortality.
  4. She's got a sort of wicked wit. She never fails to make me laugh. I remember once her mom was surprised when her teachers described her as having an edge, as we always think of her as our sweet Zoe.
  5. She's not afraid to try new things. Like learning Japanese.
  6. She's hot and she knows it. Great hair, natural highlights, blue eyes, bright smile. She's so hot, in fact, that I decided against posting a photo that shows her face. (The internet is a scary place for cute girls.) Sadly, though, even in her hotness, she has not escaped the inner critic all women seem to have. She'd like to have six pack abs (I guess her boyfriend's don't count...) and she is, I think, jealous of her sister's boobs.
  7. Her first word was, "Duh," as in "Duh, Anti Jen," repeated as I was saying goodbye to her mom and lamenting something dorky I'd just said, done, or thought. That pretty much says it all.
  8. She's a brute. I hate to play even casual sports with her because someone always ends up crying and it's never her.
  9. She farts like a man. I'm sure she would not appreciate my sharing this particular fun fact, but I couldn't resist. Though I am not the one who coined the phrase (her uncle did, and he sees her least of all her extended family...), I must say it is so very true. Had I not been trapped in the car with so many of her intestinal outbursts, I might not feel so entitled to share.
  10. She gives a great teenaged dirty look. I suspect she is giving me one now.
  11. Unlike her sister, she does have a price. She accepted my offer of $50 to eat the bug in the lollipop that Sadie rejected. I have pictures (taken professionally - it was at my wedding) but I swore never to share them. If you come to my house, though, I'll show you. The photographer even caught a tear rolling down her cheek. Before you condemn me for being an awful Anti, please know she was actively involved in the negotiations for this challenge. She'd learned her lesson, to up her price, after I once paid her a dollar to eat a Sardine flavored jelly bean. And I have a photo of her later, proudly displaying her cash settlement. I may have scarred my Zoe, but I don't think it was on this day.
  12. She's the life of the party. I remember the way she worked the room in her walker when she was just a toddler and her parents were hosting a Thanksgiving feast. A natural flirt, she scooted from guest to guest with a grace and confidence which have only grown through the years.
  13. She's generous with her time and sensitive to the needs of others. She once watched over Curry (who was captive in the outdoor duck pen) so I could take a shower in peace. I wouldn't feel so bad if she hadn't had wet hair at the time (and if I hadn't reduced Sadie to tears with my insistence that Curry be banned from the house for five minutes) but I really needed a shower.
  14. As I mentioned before, she's an outstanding softball player, but she's not exactly what you'd call a natural athlete. She's lobbed enough tennis balls over the fence at her local park to recognize she hasn't got the tennis touch. And though she's not a great swimmer or a particularly fast runner, this did not deter her from improving in both areas. She just worked harder.
  15. She's your classic big sister. I remember playing with her in the yard of her grandmother's house. She was picking up handfuls of dirt and rubbing them onto her infant sister. When I intervened, telling her Sadie didn't like the dirt, she picked up one more big handful and rubbed it in good. Another memorable quote from their childhood, "Zoe, don't hit your sister so hard." Though they don't come to blows very often, now the currency of their conflict is denim. There never seems to be more than one pair of jeans available for them to wear on a school day.

Zoe's beginning to make plans for her life as a grown up. Surely she will go to a great college, probably Ivy League and most likely on a softball scholarship. She wants to be a professional photographer. She intends to remain a city girl. She swears that in her twenties she will not blow all her money on expensive champagne and fancy restaurants (as her mother and I did).

I hope I always have a place in her world. Happy Birthday, Zoe.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

as requested

A regular reader and dear friend of mine requested not only a clarification but a diagram regarding the A frame hug, item #37 on the list of 63 things I love about my dad. Never one to disappoint a friend (except for yesterday when I disappointed two friends after I forgot it was Monday as in Movie Night Monday. Sadly, once I remembered it was Monday I still "forgot" to attend Movie Night... I know this is horrible, both the forgetting of the day of the week (a byproduct of the princess parasite lifestyle), and the intentional ditching of a friendly invitation, but the last Movie Night I attended was actually really lame (limited seating, as in I sat on the floor, and limited movie, as in others kept talking through the plot only to insist we rewind and watch key parts again...). And besides, Movie Night is held in a town which is 45 minutes away from my own. I rarely even drive this far for seals. And, to top it all off, my husband was home and awake (both of which are rare) which was way more appealing than any chick flick could be...), and so, as I was saying, since I am never one to disappoint a friend, I give you the diagrams.

Above and to the left is an example of a normal hug.

To the right, the A frame. Notice how the bodies tilt and only touch at the top of the torso? This forms the A frame.

I think because I was raised on the A frame, that I am not a particularly touchy feely person. In fact, recently I was dismayed to be hugged in a group setting by a girl I barely know and like even less. When lamenting about it later (to another friend who suffered a similar experience) she commented that she'd warned her husband of the impending intrusion on his personal space. She instructed him to "give her the long hug" in self defense, an interesting tactic I'd never considered. While it prolongs the initial unpleasantry, it practically guarantees there will be no repeat of the unwelcome event.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

63 things I love about my dad

Before I go on and on about my Dad, can I first say how much I love this picture? I love it for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it always gets me humming, "Come on Eileen," as my sister and I are dressed straight out of the not-yet-existent Dexy's Midnight Runners video. Secondly, I love that we are painting in our dress shoes. Mom says that's because we were poor then and we only had one pair of shoes. (By the way, notice how my sister's are black patent leather? Oh, how I envied that black patent leather. Though I now absolutely adore red shoes, I had major issues, particularly a few years later, with a pair of red unscuffable sandals my mom bought for me. I really wanted black patent leather; she told me maybe for my next pair. I then went on a mission, constantly trying to scuff my unscuffable sandals. Darn it, if it wasn't true, I really couldn't scuff those sandals...) Finally, I love this picture because we are painting the garage the same color it already was - brown. Brown, it seemed, was the color of my youth. Brown eyes, brown hair, brown car, brown house, brown swing set, Brownies... We even befriended a neighbor we referred to as "The Brown Car Lady." (We liked her because she would let us stand on her kitchen table while she painted our toenails.) Anyway, ironically, I just bought new sheets. Wanna guess what color? Brown. To match my brown leather couch. Oh, how Erik mocked me, but truly, the ensemble really goes...

Today, however, is not about me, or my shoes, or my sheets. Today is about my Dad. A textbook Daddy's Girl, I adore my Dad. Not only do I look just like him, I act a lot like him. This is not always a good thing, as he is rather eccentric and would have trouble navigating the real world without the help of my down-to-earth Mom. Truth be told, I'm sometimes even sad for my poor Dad as he is trapped in a sort of unfortunate time warp. He is the perfect fifties dad, patiently plugging away at work to provide for his family (in fact, my Mom has often said he will "work until he dies"). All he asks for in exchange is a little respect - some peace and quiet when he gets home, the big piece of fish at dinner, the remote control at night. He does pretty well with the fish and the remote, but man, does he have very little peace. My Dad is in some way at the center of every family drama. I believe this is because he is, like our president, "the Decider." We used to vote on family issues, but whenever he was outvoted, he would declare that he got six votes. Because his vote is omnipotent, he is constantly lobbied by opposing forces. I remember once we asked him who his favorite child was. He very easily answered "Kevin" because at the time, Kevin could barely talk.

In addition to being the most coveted ally, my Dad is a safe place. I feel like I could tell him anything and he wouldn't be fazed. He generally responds to life's calamities with pensive silence and later, his checkbook. Although he is Catholic to his core, he's never once told his children he was "disappointed" in them. In many ways, he epitomizes forgiveness. But it could be denial. Either way, it's very Catholic.

I actually find my Dad both entertaining and inspiring. He's a self made man who is unintentionally hilarious. He can't help but be anything other than himself. And so today, on his 63rd birthday, I give you 63 reasons why I love my Dad:
  1. He didn't get mad when I sold all his Cokes for a quarter at my lemonade stand. In fact, he thought it was funny.
  2. He bites his tongue when he is concentrating.
  3. He can't resist a bargain. Just ask the driver of the meat truck who came across my dad washing his own car and changing his own oil filter. That lucky driver sold my dad so many frozen entrees (chicken cordon bleu - yum) that Mom was furious as her freezer was already full.
  4. He buys cheap gas. I do too. It's a waste of time and energy, but we both can't bear to pay even a penny more elsewhere.
  5. He tips 20%, but not because he wants to. This is in honor of the decade I spent waiting tables. He still calculates the tip before tax and rounds down a dollar rather than up, but believe me, this is a big improvement.
  6. Though he has a reputation for being cheap (an uncle of mine once described him as "tighter than a donkey's asshole facing uphill against the wind"), he's also quite generous. He buys animals through the heifer project and has his church set up on auto pay.
  7. He spoils his children. He supports us in whatever harebrained schemes we may propose. I think he secretly wishes he hadn't spoiled his children, as now we are in many ways paralyzed financially, but I don't think he could have been any other kind of Dad.
  8. He encourages us to save for the future. Sadly, we rarely do it. I worry about a future without my Dad. It will be an ugly place.
  9. He once replaced the seven dollars I lost on the Wildwood Boardwalk when, at the age of six, I stashed them down my shirt. I had seen Laverne & Shirley keep their money that way, I just never realized they were sticking it in their bras. This is actually my earliest money memory which, if you believe Suze Orman, set the tone for my life. "Go ahead and be careless," I learned, "Daddy will fix it." Though Suze may find fault with this memory, I treasure it. What I take away from it is that my Dad thinks it's cute when I'm dumb.
  10. He says he hates the animals but he's often seen napping with the cats and I think he secretly likes them.
  11. He enjoys reenacting things he saw on TV. The most hilarious thing I can recall was his acting out a Friends episode. He kept standing from one side to the other and changing voices to represent the different characters.
  12. He is equally enthusiastic when reading children's books. He's always quite animated.
  13. In fact, he's great with children. He's not afraid to play. I especially enjoyed riding with him on my nieces' see-saw recently.
  14. He's athletic. Can't wait for that apparently latent gene to kick in. Too bad this athleticism most commonly manifests itself in the form of the Thomas Family Death March. (Cuzen Bob, can you say "Philadelphia in the summertime"?) My Dad is so athletic, he once ran a marathon. His feet turned blue from the dye in his sneakers and his toenails later fell off, but he finished.
  15. He's quiet, except for when he's not. When pushed over the edge, Dad whips out with what we call "The Border Voice." This voice was born at the Canadian border but has been used in any number of locales (often airports or shopping malls, or on the phone with customer service reps or lawyers...). It's actually quite effective because it is so out of character.
  16. He also makes really girlie noises, like right before he dives into a cold pool.
  17. He won't fix his ingrown toenails. I know, as I inherited them, that it is a painful condition with a simple cure. Instead, he prefers to periodically soak and pick at his swollen big toes.
  18. He loves his mother. He calls her every night. Never mind that she lives on the East Coast and it is 10 pm by the time she hears from him (she naps in preparation), they both love it. I worry for him, as a world without his mother will be as dark for him as my world will be without my Dad.
  19. He loves my mother. I love to see them holding hands.
  20. When my mom is not around to take care of him, he makes jelly sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches, but seldom peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  21. He whistles. His whistle is part of his vocabulary. When he whistles, that generally means that a patient has died. He longs to write a book about all he has seen with his patients, but I have had trouble communicating to him that the whistle doesn't translate well to the page.
  22. He's wicked smart. He's got a photographic memory that was apparently on a recessive gene, as none of his children got it.
  23. He keeps up on his profession and isn't afraid to try new things. As a result, he's saved a lot of lives and alienated a number of less adequate doctors.
  24. He is adored by his patients. I used to be jealous of them, particularly because they were so much more lovable than his children. And we were never considered sick because we were never dying. Even the need for stitches was negotiable if my Dad was in charge. Now I finally get it. I realize that as much as my Dad could love his patients because they were good, he still loved his kids, even when they were bad.
  25. He dresses up at parties for his patients like Big Bird or Santa Claus. The kids are generally young enough that they don't get the connection and they sadly report, "Oh, Dr. Thomas, you just missed Big Bird." Though this past Christmas they did mention that last year's Santa was black...
  26. He once met Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers is even cooler than you think he is. Just check out this blog.
  27. He was a good baby. The shape of his head proves it. Below is an illustration I made for an unpublished book I wrote that shows an aerial view of the "good baby head." It is flattened on the back side as he seldom cried and therefore laid flat on his back during his skull's most formative days. (By the way, Bob Barker himself once held up this illustration to his studio audience and announced that I was
    "very talented, ladies and gentlemen.") Take note also of the completely ineffective comb over.

  28. He finally cut this comb over off. It happened sometime after a patient of his told him his hair was "pretty" and another commented it was "weird."
  29. He loves mountains. And churches. And trees. Anyone who's sat through his vacation photos knows this. He also loves scenic routes. To this day I associate the signs of a squiggly arrow with the motion of food moving backwards up your digestive tract.
  30. He would patiently re-teach me to swim each summer when we lived in Virginia. They say swimming is like riding a bike, you never forget, but I was also really slow to figure out the bike riding.
  31. When we finally moved to California, he took great care of our pool, though it was never easy. We had a tree in the backyard he nicknamed "Old Yosemite" that dropped needles like you wouldn't believe. And then there was the cheap bubble wrap cover that constantly shed its shredded bubbles as they scraped against the flagstone border. But Dad had worked hard for his pool and he would not be denied the pleasure of using it. He had been told it couldn't be built (too small a yard, too narrow an access) but he just hired a smaller bulldozer.
  32. He's a picky eater. He refers to artichokes and other green things as "poison" and claims he's allergic to curry. Actually, he just hates curry (and root beer) cuz it reminds him of the time he spent on a boat in the service.
  33. He dances at weddings.
  34. He doesn't mind losing at board games. Especially when playing with the grandkids.
  35. He's actually sort of immature. He thinks it's funny to show my mom three fingers and invite her to "read between the lines."
  36. He used to let me sit on his lap and steer the car up the drive way.
  37. He gives A frame hugs. I think they're a little weird and distant, but now I think it'd be wrong if he did anything else.
  38. He loves to eat off other people's plates. One of Erik's favorite memories of my Dad took place when they went to a sports bar while my mom and I shopped. Erik ordered a sandwich which he unwittingly shared with my Dad. They also enjoyed the free peanuts, discarding the shells on the ground. My Dad, reportedly, particularly enjoyed crunching them with his feet.
  39. He likes chick flicks and he's not ashamed to admit it.
  40. He once drove our car through a river. It was probably just a creek, but I remember it seemed impassable and was probably not the wisest path. Still, he went for it.
  41. He always eats Cheerios with half a banana for breakfast.
  42. He loves to point out things he's reading in the newspaper and read them aloud.
  43. I love that when he visits other people's houses, he finds a quiet spot, reads their periodicals and falls asleep.
  44. He's a strong supporter of his college, Villanova. He still wears his school ring and he's always singing the fight song, "V for Villanova, V for Victory..."
  45. He was inspired to become a doctor after a house call from a doctor during his childhood. Like his pool, he faced many obstacles on his path to this goal, but he got it done.
  46. He can sleep and watch TV at the same time. Anyone who doubts this can just try changing the channel. He will instantly wake up.
  47. He can nap anywhere. And he does.
  48. He wears funky ties to work. He particularly likes his Sponge Bob Square Tie.
  49. He calls us "sports fans," though none of us are.
  50. He has a sense of humor about his insanity. He appreciated it when I referred to him and my brother as "two nuts in a sack."
  51. He's a great writer. He doesn't always have the chance to show it. He once wrote Erik a phenomenal letter of recommendation. And he writes a decent family Christmas letter when I am on strike.
  52. He was an Eagle Scout and an altar boy, which, of course, makes his children major geek spawn.
  53. And yet, he used to be a rebel. He likes to show us the scars on his knuckles that he claims he got from the angry nuns at his Catholic school. Alternatively, his sisters say the scars are from the time he broke a window with his fist after they'd locked him out. He also fondly recalls smoking cigarettes and reading comic books while his sisters were forced to clean his room.
  54. In many ways, he still is a rebel. He once refused to pay all the parking tickets he'd racked up at the Naval Base - until the parking authorities scraped off his stickers. This was another incident where I saw the Border Voice in action.
  55. Like my Mom, he also stop smoking.
  56. He has really neat eyes. They're hazel with little flecks of blue and brown in them.
  57. He doesn't drink water, I think ever. Certainly not in restaurants, which is great for me as I'm always one glass ahead of the waitress.
  58. He's an optimist. I surely didn't inherit that.
  59. He likes to coast down hills. It's annoying sometimes (especially when he claims he's saving gas - the poor man's hybrid) but it can also be fun. He used to take us down a particularly steep street in San Diego (B Street, I think) and it felt just like a roller coaster.
  60. In fact, he loves to drive. This is not always a good thing. He's crashed a rental car in Italy, ran a red light in San Diego, and, of course, whenever he's in charge of family road trips, the bathroom stops are notoriously infrequent. ("Next town," he says. "That wasn't a town," he says, as we finally pass a place with buildings...) But because he likes to drive, I do get to see him and my mother on a fairly regular basis, despite the fact that I live two states away.
  61. He hates to wait. He'll take a right at a red light even if it's the wrong way.
  62. He loves his little MG. He considers it a classic even though a mouse once considered it home and one of the cats (presumably Ginger) once peed on the gear shift.
  63. He's always turning off the heat. This actually drives everyone crazy, especially if he accidentally lets Ginger the pee cat into your room at night. I believe it isn't so accidental, this passing of the cat. I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks that people who sleep with the heat on deserve to have their things peed on.
  64. Two memorable quotes from Sundays: Either "nobody in this car needs a donut" or "I'm saving you calories" as he takes a big bite out of your donut. Now, whenever I drive past the donut shop, I often hear myself thinking, "nobody in this car needs a donut."
Happy birthday, Dad.

Friday, June 22, 2007

yesterday i sort of did poison my husband

So I know I told you a few months back that I was not trying to poison my husband. I thought, then, you might want to know that last night I did sort of poison my husband, but only accidentally.

While making him dinner, I noticed our microwave was on the fritz. (He had told me a couple nights prior that it would turn on when the door was open, but of course I immediately figured he was doing something wrong. My first thought when it happened to me? Oh, we need a new microwave.) Anyway, despite this phenomenon, I continued to use the machine. (I later learned that the internet says this problem is just a failure of the door switch and it's really just the light and fan that stay on, not the actual microwaves - unless, of course, you feel intense heat. But I can't say I knew that at the time...)

What I found more disturbing was the noxious smell of melting plastic. I figured it pretty much had be coming from the microwave (as the real oven had no plastic in it, on it, or around it), but I couldn't see anything melting. I didn't think for even a moment that the noxious fumes might be settling into Erik's dinner. He tasted them later, the noxious fumes, and abandoned his meal for bed. Still, the damage was done.

It was little surprise to either of us when he ended up projectile vomiting at 3 am.

So today we bought a new microwave.

I will say, however, that Erik blows chunks a lot. I don't know if it is a sensitive constitution and he refuses to consider it might be an ulcer. Still, he's all superstitious about certain foods (like apple juice, spaghetti, and enchiladas) that seem to most commonly inspire his emesis. His gastric dysfunction is most likely a function of his odd schedule - eating large meals before going to bed - but still, it's worrisome. At least when I barf, it's because I am stinking drunk. Not pretty, and again, not proud. But at least it makes sense.

Interestingly, this week's local weekly tabloid featured an article on men with eating disorders titled "Manorexia." I told him I think he has Boylimia.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

perhaps an even more disturbing discovery?

So this is something perhaps no grown person should know. As much as Sauvignon Blanc and Apple Jacks do not pair well, apparently Froot Loops and Margaritas are ever so much more palatable.

I'm not saying I'm proud. And, yes, I know why my jeans don't fit.

Monday, June 18, 2007

i hate it when that happens

Whiff is the sound of my ego deflating.

Today I missed (whiffed) for the first time since my rescue net was repaired last fall. Like all my other whiffs, however, this one has an asterisk attached. Today's whiff I blame on my overly eager, dreadfully inexperienced rescue cohort. We were down at Morro Rock (thankfully not on the rock like yesterday, just on the rocks by the rock) looking at an underweight yearling and devising our strategy. While I told her I planned to creep up slowly and quietly with the net, she decided it would be helpful if she were noisy and noticeable. Her efforts to distract the sea lion from my approach only served to inform him that something was seriously up. He was able to take off before I could get close enough to get a good swing in.

For the record, I only have three other official whiffs under my belt. The first was against a big male (much larger than Tapia) who I actually had in the net a few times. I just couldn't keep him there as he kept tossing it off his head with his teeth. I blame this whiff on the fact that I was using the heavy net (it weighs 25 pounds dry). At least that whiff was somewhat exciting. My eldest nieces and hubby were watching from shore. They told me they really weren't sure who they were rooting for as it was a pretty even match. I felt further exonerated when the sea lion hauled out again and I handed the net to another volunteer (this one a man) only to watch him whiff too.

My second whiff came at 2 am on the drive on beach. This time, honestly, I wanted to whiff or else I would have taken my friend up on his offer to meet me at the beach. While it isn't always necessary to have two people around for a successful rescue, it's helpful, especially in the dark. Anyway, I didn't even really swing on this guy. Just driving up disturbed him enough that he took off for the water. This was perfectly fine with me. He was no longer in danger of being a speed bump and I could go back to bed.

My final official whiff I actually do feel horribly about. This one was on the jetty at Morro Rock, on the ocean side, of course. This sea lion really needed a rescue (he was dragging his hind end) but I chose a poor approach. I still think if I'd come from the south rather than the north, I might have had a better shot at him. As it was, I didn't have strong enough footing to take a decent swing. Essentially I just harassed him back into the water when what he needed most was rest. I really thought he'd restrand somewhere else but no such luck.

So today makes four. For those who are keeping track, I do not include Brindell among my whiffs because we did ultimately catch him. It's only a whiff if you come back empty handed... And I also don't count that entangled sea lion that I left in Cayucos last year, because I didn't even have the net with me. That's a blown assessment, not a whiff... And, now that I think about it, there was another big male I faced off against with a friend, but she had the big net - I was just the back up. We both came away empty handed, but that whiff goes on her record more than mine.

I really shouldn't be so bummed. Actually, I ought to have more whiffs on my resume. The fact that I have so few is more a testament to my cowardice than any sort of kudos to my accuracy (as I have a tendency to pass off the long shots to my more experienced friends). And besides, today's critter did have some fight left in him. It's not the worst thing to know he's spending another night in the sea.

I think I'm still just really shook up about yesterday's rescue. Though I've seen broken jaws before, there was something about Workout that I found particularly disturbing. In fact, I'm not alone. A member of our stranding staff said his injury pierced her veil of indifference too. And, yes, he has passed on to the big Rock in the sky, but I'm happy as it truly was the best thing for him. Interestingly, vet staff thinks the damage to his jaw was done by a seal bomb (basically an underwater firecracker) which I am amazed to learn is legal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Seal bombs are technically only legal when they don't cause bodily harm to marine mammals, but clearly they have the capacity to be devastating.

Anyway, at least the gal that helped me on yesterday's adventure is not burned out by the experience. Gnarly rescues are generally polarizing - they either get people totally addicted to the process or they scare them away forever. She swears she's still on board, so that's a good thing.

So I guess my ego and I shall retire for the evening. There are worse things in the world than whiffing. Like seal bombs.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

today i got my workout

I almost didn't post a photo of today's rescue. I usually try to spare you internet friends the uglier side of my hobby. In fact, this picture is actually not as gruesome as I thought it might be. If you didn't know this was an unnatural angle, you might just think he was being particularly vocal. Unfortunately, this sea lion's injury looks much worse in person... At least take comfort in knowing that by the time this photo was taken, he was full of enough Banamine and Butorphanol that he wasn't feeling a thing.

He'd been spotted by a surfer (who also happens to be my pet sitter) just a couple hours earlier. She reported him as skinny and small and on Morro Rock. She couldn't tell his jaw was broken from her spot in the surf line up, but she could see the rock he was resting on was fairly flat and accessible. For those who aren't from these parts, Morro Rock is the giant rock for which my town is named. It's massive and mostly surrounded by open ocean. Usually the animals we get from "the rock" are around or near the rock, or at least on the rocks by the rock. Very seldom are they actually "on" the rock. In fact, this is only the third time I've been out there in five years. It's not exactly fun, but it's always memorable.

Although we couldn't spot him from the parking lot, we figured it was worth the long dusty hike out to determine if he was still there. After all, what's a little poison oak between friends? Besides, only one part of the trail is truly scary - narrow and steep, you have to lean in towards the rock to keep from sliding into the ocean. And we knew we'd responded quickly. My rescue partner and I were both on the beach within fifteen minutes of the first call.

Once we got close enough to see his injury, we were so grateful we'd made the effort to find him. Pausing a moment to soak in the sadness of his situation, we quickly got on with the rescue. The netting was actually easy enough. He saw me coming the whole time; he just didn't feel like going anywhere. Carrying him out across the rocks and through the brush was the real challenge. The fact that he couldn't close his jaw didn't prevent him from trying to bite us. Maneuvering him safely would have been much more difficult if he were fully functioning.

At only 28.8 kg, Workout was extremely underweight. (For comparison, recall that Trolling, last week's skinny 2 year old, was considered emaciated at 37.4 kg...) I would say I'm grateful he didn't weigh more (after all, he was already a Workout), but I'm bummed to think his weight loss is indicative of the amount of time that's passed since he broke his jaw. It's not that we've never repaired a broken jaw, but fresh wounds are always better than old ones.

Though he may soon be headed for the big Rock in the sky, at least he won't have to starve to death to get there. And Butorphanol is a very good thing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2 regrettable discoveries

Recently I've made two disturbing discoveries.

1. I've had a typo in my profile THIS WHOLE TIME. Not just a run of the mill dyslexic typo or even a finger-too-fast-on-the-keyboard typo, I had entire extra letters in the word "moment." I am such a spelling snob that I would like to think perhaps I was drunk when I set up my profile. Given my known habits, odds are pretty decent I was. Not attractive, I know, but I'd rather be drunk than stupid.

2. Speaking of drunk, for all you budding sommeliers out there, I have learned that Apple Jacks and Sauvignon Blanc are a bad pairing. The combination just might make you throw up a little.

Enough said.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

3 seals and a splinter

I love delivery. It's the thing I miss most about living in a city. Urban dwellers can have just about anything delivered anytime. You name it and they can get it - from urgent documents to illicit drugs. You can even have yourself delivered (by cab, of course). Here in Morro Bay, though, the most I can hope for is a pizza and even that I'd better order before 8 pm. This Saturday, however, I got something delivered that no city dweller can dial up. This little yearling sea lion, Carpenter, was scooped off the drive on beach in our south county and delivered to me by my pal who rescued him. His stay was brief (lately we've been keeping these guys overnight just to mellow them out) as I shipped him off immediately after breakfast. I didn't want to trouble the understaffed Sunday rescue crew with the burden of his transport.

Thoughtful as I was to clear the decks on Saturday, Sunday turned out to be a busy day anyway. The weather was glorious and so the beaches were crowded with folks eager to locate (and harass) sick sea lions. The first call came from San Simeon and though I was on the schedule and lived closest, the gal who was in charge tried to spare me the long drive north. (I usually take Sundays off so she knew I was only on call out of pity.) She got sidetracked, though, on her way north by this little yearling, SueAnn, who was hanging around the jetty in Morro Bay (not nearly as far out or as far up as Walls, I must say). So while she went for the sure thing, I grabbed another neighbor friend of mine and headed up north for the long shot.

We were shocked to find Trolling was still there. He was patiently waiting two feet from the surf, actively ignoring the chaos around him. We're told he was even letting people throw rocks at him. He's bigger than our recent run of yearlings (37 kg to everyone else's 16 kg), and too skinny to be a classic Domoic Acid victim. Based on the amount of water he drank at the site, I'd put my money on Leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is one of the first words we teach our new volunteers. We like it because it's long and intimidating. We use it to encourage people to keep their dogs away from our animals. "He might have Leptospirosis," we say (even when we doubt he does), "which is transmittable to dogs and humans" (which is totally true). This isn't a horrible Lepto year (it runs in 3 or 4 year cycles), but we do see a smattering of them every season.

Anyway, tucked and dry, skinny and disinterested, his was a pretty easy netting. It barely got my adrenaline flowing. Apparently, he was saving his ferocity until he got back to his pen. There he nearly bit me while not getting his penicillin shot. He ended up wearing the Dual Pen while my hand made a hasty retreat. I actually felt his whiskers brush against my glove - never a good thing. I was able to get him medicated this evening, at least, after he had a few hours of peace and quiet and I devised a safer approach.

As delighted as I am to have conquered my tricky sea lion, the undisputed highlight of my day came at dinner time. Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of extracting from Erik's hand the most gigantic splinter I've ever seen. He got it lodged in there a week ago, when he suffered a puncture wound in the wilderness. He wasn't certain that there was wood left behind (even the doctor wouldn't go digging around after it), until his body slowly worked it to the surface. Such a wonder of science, our immune system is. Anyway, knowing how I dig a good pick (I'm forever freeing his pores of this or that), he saved it for me, like a little treasure.

Such a good day.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

it's really over

Yesterday my buddy and long time love, Bob Barker, worked his last day at the Price is Right. I should be really really bummed, perhaps I'm in a state of shock or denial, but all I can feel is happy for him. I've long imagined that the whole hosting thing got old. I've seen it first hand, how a particularly lame audience can really grate on his nerves, always asking about his age and other random stuff they'd already know if they were Loyal Friends and True... I consider how well I know the games and how I flinch when people make poor choices. He must be even more offended by the stupidity of the masses when they make shameful mistakes. I mean, really, people, when playing the Money Game when has it ever not been "El Cheapo"? And can you honestly say it has ever been 90 or 85 dollars? And to those who've played Plinko, where is the sense in dropping your chip to one side or the other? Everyone knows the sweet spot is where the n meets the k. And to those people who have played the Check Game, $2500 is almost always safe. And the Range Game, hello, stop the Range Finder when you're at Bob's eye level, aligned with the green section on the left. And those playing Pathfinder, dude, the path always ends in a corner with either 5 or 0. I've always figured Bob returns to his dressing room after each show, pours a stiff drink, runs his long fingers through his thinning hair and sighs.

All that is easy for me to say, though. Apparently the hard part is bidding your way up on stage, eh? I won't deny that I may be taking some measure of joy in knowing that now I'm not alone in my sad fate. Now no one in the world can play a pricing game with Bob.

Still, it does feel like I'm losing a friend.

Another thing lost today? Erik's shaved off all his long hair. He actually went to a barber a couple days ago to trim the most annoying of his locks. Unfortunately, he came home with bangs. Boys don't have bangs, I mocked him. And so, today, my reward is a pile of two and a half years of hair in the backyard. He didn't even leave anything on top, which was the whole idea that spawned the hair growing experiment so long ago. Like Bob and his show, I can only feel happy for Erik who is finally free.

And, yes, a little bit sad.

Monday, June 04, 2007

5 seals in 4 days

Though I haven't done a lot of rescuing this past week, I've done a bunch of animal handling. This beautiful sea lion yearling has the rather regrettable name Slide-n-Slip, though to me he will forever be Maurice. Maurice, however, was a seal rescued in 2003 and so the name was a no go. Still, Slip-n-Slide should have worked according to the no-repeats-in-10-years rule (last used January 1997), but I agreed to let them flop it around just to be safe.

In any event, little SNS came off a beach in Pismo on Saturday morning, too far south for me as I was stuck in Cayucos with an elephant seal. My ellie later died of Otostrongylus circumlitus, that evil lung worm parasite who has not yet found a way to play nice with the elephant seal population. (While the Marine Mammal Center frowns on diagnosing animals on the beach, I was pretty confident about this one. My suspicions were confirmed when I actually saw the vile worms while collecting post mortem blood samples.) Anyway, SNS proved quite a handful. Though only 16 kg, he was able to break free from one restrainer (but never from me, ha ha) and he was way too stubborn to open his mouth for his tube feedings. Finally we called in the cavalry, our most experienced member with the longest, most dexterous hands, who convinced the little fellow to open up and get fed.

I also didn't get to rescue little Dockit here (he came in on Thursday and I am technically off on Thursdays...). As his name suggests, he was picked up off a dock, right here in my neighborhood. He'd been sitting on the boat launch, minding his own business, very much not minding the people who passed by. Not exactly normal behavior. And he's bony, only 15.4 kg (robust compared to Godfrey's 11.4kg...), but obviously perky enough to be climbing the walls like crazy. No sign of the runny black death poop, either, so I'm optimistic for him. Just another scrawny yearling trying to make his way in the world.

I did have the honor of my very own rescue on Friday. My neighbor friend and I fetched this harbor seal off the beach in Cayucos. She'd checked on it two days earlier on a different, less accessible beach. She'd put it on watch as harbors are so commonly left on the beach while mom forages. Besides, he didn't have an umbi and he did have teeth - more likely a weaner than a dependent pup.

This time, though, little Boone was much dryer around the eyes, and, as you can clearly see, so skinny (only 7.8 kg). The timing couldn't have been better as we had just enough time to feed him and send him off on Dockit's transport. I love it when the seals are so thoughtful as to strand on nearby beaches at convenient times.

And finally came Walls, picked up off the Morro Bay jetty Sunday afternoon near a surf spot called Widow's Walls. I didn't throw the net, but I did help keep him in it and carry him down the rocks. He was pretty bitey, which made him difficult to maneuver across the jetty, but easy to tube feed. I wouldn't call his stranding thoughtful at all. Though it was in my neighborhood, the jetty is a generally treacherous place. And not only was I again, not technically on call, but I was also napping. I do, think, though, that he was mine to catch as we'd had a report on a similar animal on the other side of the jetty on Saturday afternoon. We got half way across the harbor (on Harbor Patrol's boat - always fun) when we were told he'd gone back in the water. At least we hadn't jumped off the boat yet.

And today I will play with no seals. Today marks the 2 year anniversary of my first day as a princess parasite. Erik and I will be celebrating by spending the day together, probably in the sun. So far the only plan that's firm is that we're going to make a killer sandwich. We thought about going to a water park (2 years ago we went to the Schlitterbahn in San Antonio, Texas...), but it's a bit early for the season and most are still open only on the weekends. It does appear our new local water park is set to open in the next week or so that's pretty exciting.

It's funny how quickly two years can pass. I still haven't done so many of the things I thought I'd do and I no longer have the excuse of a round the clock job to blame for my lack of progress. I have done all the big stuff on my list, though. I've seen my husband and my family more, I've taken more naps, and I've rescued more seals. Still, I'm working on a new list for the next couple years. It seems to include taking the LSAT, which is something I've put off now for 14 years. I'm not sure law school would be good for me (is it good for anyone?) but if I score as high as it seems I might, I think it'd be foolish not to go. No promises, though, just exploring the possibilities.

Friday, June 01, 2007

41 things I love about my best friend

Every time I start thinking about the intro to this post, I find myself whistling the theme song to the Courtship of Eddie's Father. ("People let me tell you about my best friend...") It's not such a bad thing to have stuck in your head. I'm a fan of Harry Nilsson's after all (at least since Kevin put him on my ipod), but I do find it somewhat disturbing when it segues into the Golden Girls theme... In any event, we're quite a pair, me and my best friend, Jules. I met her when I was just eighteen, so next year I will have known her half my life. Six years my senior, she was the first "adult" I'd ever known socially and in so many ways she taught me how to be grown up. We also have the luxury not only of being friends, but being relatives as we were dating (and now have married) brothers.

So here you have 41 reasons why I love Jules:
  1. She collects eclectic art. She has a can of military issue water.
  2. She has a green thumb, though she doesn't always use it. We used to enjoy killing orchids together.
  3. She's thrifty. She can live off eggs and tortillas. Unfortunately, this month I have forced her to do just that by "helping" her set up all her bills to auto-pay. Not a big deal, except I set them up to pay all on the same day, which seemed, at the time, to be very very far away...
  4. She's also a generous tipper and knows her way around a five star restaurant. In fact, I'm certain she could run one if she wanted to. She got me into waitressing (a blessing and a curse) and so I'm sure my Dad resents her just a tiny bit every time he has to tip 20%.
  5. She's raised two phenomenal children, my nieces Zoe and Sadie. It hasn't always been easy, as Jules' world seems plagued by minor inconveniences punctuated by the occasional catastrophe, but she's made sure it's always been fun.
  6. She introduced me to food. Mexican food. Ethiopian. Thai. Herbal tea. Artichokes. Soyrizo. We could have skipped Carpaccio, though. I should have been suspicious when she wouldn't tell me what is was until after I tried it.
  7. She wanted to introduce me to my husband, Erik, but she waited until we naturally crossed paths. She knew we'd either love each other or hate each other. She was so right. I'm glad she waited, though, as I was a regular wreck when she and I first knew each other.
  8. She encouraged me to go to him, when she was 9 months pregnant, though it would mean missing Zoe's birth. Erik and I now call that time our Summer of Love.
  9. She loves to read. She introduced me to Charles Bukowski and tawdry science fiction.
  10. She loves horses. She rediscovered her passion during her (successful) battle against breast cancer. Much as she may sometimes feel guilty for the expense of her herd, I know that Fannie, Roux, and Tuffy saved her life.
  11. She's spontaneous and sort of silly. She once sent Erik to pick up take out from Max's Opera Cafe in SF with a handwritten note that started, "Please, I am deaf..." We laughed as we watched from the car and noticed that he applauded along with the other customers when the waitress stopped singing. (Erik defended his actions, saying it's only polite to clap when everyone else is clapping....) We laughed even harder when he returned and explained that our sandwiches were on white bread because the waiter, after asking about our unwritten bread preference and remembering Erik was allegedly deaf, sized him up and declared, "White bread. You look like you like white bread." I'm sure this is an appalling politically incorrect story, but it's a family favorite that always makes me smile.
  12. Until very recently, she owned her own dive bar in SF. Sadie's Flying Elephant was the place to be. She even let me tend bar once, for the first 15 minutes of happy hour. I was a mess - serving frothy beers in soapy glasses and making change out of my pocket after I got the register stuck shut. It isn't as easy as it looks.
  13. She knows the value of a good Twilight Zone marathon. She was once scolded when caught tuning in at her job at a Sports Bar. (After the manager changed the channel, all her once happy customers left...) She still doesn't have Tivo so she has to enjoy Twilight Zone marathons the old fashioned way, through a haze of sleep deprivation.
  14. She sings beautifully. She can even sing opera. She's passed the gift on to her girls.
  15. She's very skittish around ticks. Everyone should be disturbed by some sort of parasite.
  16. She never has a pen. Ever. And if she has one, it doesn't work.
  17. She found Grandpa's bell. It wasn't easy to locate such a tiny trinket in her vast collection of miscellanea. It means so much to Erik to be reunited with this piece of his past and it means possibly even more to me that she went out of her way to find it.
  18. She's not grossed out by the maggot pitcher. It's a very long story that begins with a dying dog and ends with nearly three years of benign neglect. I love that when I was finally able to speak the unspeakable that she laughed it off and scolded me for being so serious and dorky.
  19. She's forgiving, about more than just the maggot pitcher and my obsessive hunt for Grandpa's bell. She doesn't make room in her life for grudges and I could learn a lot from that.
  20. She can cook. Though can she make tortillas seem gourmet, she struggles to follow directions on a package of Noodle Roni. She has to go with her instincts in the kitchen. She also never used to own a microwave, until I bought one as a cancer present. (A very selfish act, as I wanted to have one at my disposal.) I was surprised when, post cancer, they chose to replace the microwave after Zoe burned it down.
  21. She stopped smoking. A number of times. In fact, the first time I met her she explained that she had quit smoking. I was a bit confused, as she was lighting up at the time. She explained that it didn't count because it wasn't her brand. Most recently, she quit for good. I never fell for tobacco, but I know it isn't easy to give up a bad habit. I am so grateful she went through the hassle as I imagine it will buy us more years to be old ladies together.
  22. She attracts great friends, if I do say so myself. Seriously, the fact that she had not one, but two dedicated caretakers during her breast cancer battle speaks volumes about her value.
  23. She dreams. In her dreams sometimes she's a waitress living in a dusty small town, driving a pick up truck with a horse trailer. She lives there alone with her horse(s) and owns a small black and white TV. I'm not even sure they even make black and white TV's anymore, but I love that it is part of her fantasy.
  24. She let me use her fake ID until I was 21. We rarely got carded when we drank together. In fact, I don't think I ever had the occasion to use it. Still, as a practicing bartender she made sure I had my facts straight. I knew "my" middle name, address, even my sign. I remember being present when she quizzed another adventurous attempted underage drinker in her own bar years later. The girl failed to answer correctly and I razzed her for not being properly prepared.
  25. She used to let me use her washer and dryer. Anyone whose been to college knows how much that can mean to a person.
  26. She's a terrible speller. It even says so on her resume.
  27. She also has horrible handwriting. As I do. When we used to share notes she'd always have to ask me if that was a "u" or a "v."
  28. She's extremely bright. She gives herself no credit for it because she used to ditch high school, but she's the smartest person I know.
  29. She coined the phrase "penis work." It's a phrase I use often. I last used it two days ago to explain to Erik why I had left a half eaten bird in the bathroom overnight. Cleaning up half eaten dead things is, in my opinion, the epitome of penis work.
  30. She often gets mistaken for a lesbian. It could be that she lives in the Bay Area but we think there's something more to it than that. A friend of hers recently told her she "presents herself like a lesbian." Whatever that means. I do remember one time, catching a cab outside the Kabuki Hot Springs, when our Islamic cab driver accused us of being homosexual. We tried to explain that we were actually sisters-in-law but he totally didn't believe us. It only got disturbing when he started quoting the Koran and forgiving us our wickedness.
  31. Her favorite movie is Dodgeball. Not my flavor, I must say, but I love imagining her cracking up. "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball..."
  32. She often has fruit in her purse, in her car, or on her person. It isn't always edible.
  33. She keeps birds. She especially loved Curry, that fearsome, foul fowl I dreaded so much. I love that she accused me of starting the conflict with the toe biting demon. I also love that in some fundamental way she must be right. I mean, ducks only do what ducks do. She made indoor duck keeping look fun. I especially enjoyed watching the two of them race down the hallway, the sound of webbed feet flapping and Jules' giggling was priceless.

  34. She gets pregnant whenever her fish die. She no longer keeps fish.
  35. She's optimistic. She always assumes the best of people even when they don't deserve it. She's actually sad to see her ghetto neighborhood being gentrified. I look it as a good thing (my car hasn't been broken into in a while), but she feels for the people who are being driven out.
  36. She's adopted. She looks just like her birth mom. Their hands are identical, just differently weathered.
  37. She's afraid of hospitals. Yet she was a trooper during childbirth, and especially during chemo.
  38. She loves the Simpsons. She thinks of herself as Homer but she's far too competent to be Homer.
  39. She never answers her phone. Most of the time it's accidental, the phone is distant or buried. But I have also trained her to screen her calls on purpose. In my world, it just isn't mandatory to be available. Unfortunately, she's accepted my lesson with gusto. Now I never get anything but her voice mail.
  40. She's nicer than me. But then most of my friends are.
  41. She's shorter than me. I don't even think I like that in a friend. It makes me feel gigantic at a mere 5'4". Luckily (or unfortunately), our bodies seem to have a pact to remain close in size. I have gained sympathy pregnancy weight, sympathy chemo weight, and, during the years lost to the maggot pitcher, she gained sympathy restless-inland-dweller weight. One of these days we've vowed to scale down together. I'm pretty sure at this point that it's the only way.
I once told Jules she'd always be 26 to me. This makes her the same age as my brother, Kevin, and younger, now, than me. I knew I couldn't keep this list down to 26, however, as it was woefully short in Kevin's case. Already I have kicked myself for things I forgot to love about him, like the way Kevin and I used to do a "tea dance" (a modification of the twist) to encourage the water to boil faster. And so, Jules, forgive me for acknowledging that time really has passed and have yourself a happy birthday.